Cable Execs: Companies Need To Create Diverse Pipeline From Within


By R. Thomas Umstead

Creating and nurturing a robust pipeline of diverse talent within cable companies is the best way to move people of color up the executive ranks, according to network executives speaking Tuesday at the 26th annual NAMIC Conference.

For companies to remain relevant and competitve in a growing multicultural world it’s imperative that companies recruit, retain and promote a diverse workforce from within. “If we are plugged into the world, we’re in touch with our consumers and their needs,” said Ken Lowe, president and CEO of Scripps Networks Interactive during the NAMIC Conference General Session panel, Why Diversity Matters In The Cable Industry.

Cox Communications president Pat Esser said that it’s important that companies are preparing people of color internally to ascend to the upper management positions. Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO Glenn Britt added that it’s a “bad day” when companies have to recruit outside the company for upper level executives, adding that a very high percentage of  C-suite hires from search firms don’t survive a year.

“The pipeline inside the company is critical,” he said. “What we need to do is build a really good diverse pipeline within our companies that we can go back to, and then get to know people over a long period of time. Ultimately the senior jobs are about having good judgment, and you don’t really know somebody’s judgment unless you’ve worked with them.”

To remain competitive, diversity has to extend beyond the employment ranks. Comcast Corp. executive vice president David Cohen said that it’s important that cable distributors and networks work on producing diverse programming to meet the needs of a growing multicultural subscriber base.

“We have to be kidding ourselves if we think the same programming that we were distributing on our systems 50 years ago will be equally compelling to a different population today or 10 years from now,” Cohen said.

To stay ahead of the curve and to avoid becoming obsolete in a fast changing consumer entertainment marketplace, the full augmentation of TV Everywhere is key for the industry to provide consumers what they want when they want it, according to Hernan Lopez, Fox International Channels president and CEO. He added that the traditional settop box will not become obsolete despite the emergence of other technologies.

“I believe there is a very long term future for the settop box,” he said.

Companies also have to extend their brands beyond cable. Scripps Networks president and Lowe said Scripps – which owns such networks as Food Network, Cooking Channel and HGTV – has pushed its brands into numerous non-TV-related areas including furniture sales and publishing. 

“It’s incumbent on us to understand that our success is tied to consumers’ diverse expectations of where and when they want to use our content,” he said.

Added Britt: “The key is to understand what’s possible, what consumers want. If we can put that together in a business structure that makes sense and where there are profits … that’s the sweet spot.”